Moving Towards South Asian Confederation
Ideal of Human Unity - Chapters

Chapter XXXII Part II

Internationalism as an Idea

Internationalism is a great and noble, albeit a Utopian idea with the potentiality to make mankind "a better, purer, more peaceful and enlightened race". (The Ideal of Human Unity, pg.549) Like all other pure ideas, the idea of internationalism has a mighty strength but also a great weakness. Its strength is that it can overwhelm a subject with its magnificent inspiration and can be embodied as a living value and a global mind-set. However it is not easy to embody such a noble idea because ordinary human life and customary mentality is besieged with sensational vibrations that considers the world of ideas to be remote and abstract. Like all other pure ideas, the idea of internationalism seems quite unreal and abstruse and "in that abstractness and remoteness lies its weakness". (Ibid, pg.550)

The idea of internationalism also elicited a partial response due to the mind-set of the classical intellectual. As an overwhelming ideal, it captured the progressive minds who in their zeal to propagate the ideal for a greater and united humanity overlooked the fact that the masses were not immediately ready to embody such an idea. Indeed, the common people, zealously identified with their sects, groups, classes, religions and nations were in no hurry and in no obligation to de-link from their sectarian attachments and prejudices. The proponents of internationalism were in a hurry and did not appreciate that such an idea has to flower organically in the social psyche as well as in the individual psyche, it has to grow from within and cannot be imposed arbitrarily. The idea to succeed should classically "have confidence in its strength and be content to grow, to insist, to impress itself till it got well into the spirit of man, it might conceivably become a real part of his soul-life, a permanent power in his psychology and might succeed in remoulding his whole life in its image".(Ibid)

As a result of the hasty attempt to be propagated, the idea of internationalism got in a sense hijacked by allied powers which exploited it to gain strength (Ibid)-powers like Socialism and Anarchism (Ibid, pg.551). In the process, the allied powers and movements gained while the idea of internationalism got relegated to a "mixed, impure and ineffective form". (Ibid, pg.550). Internationalism became a casual idea: "Life accepts it as a partial habit, but not completely, not quite sincerely". (Ibid)

Though the march towards internationalism is slow at present, it can very well gather momentum one day. The forces of communication are geared to turn the world into a global village. Science per se is international in nature; "there can be no such thing as a national science, but only the nations' contributions to the work and growth of science which is the indivisible inheritance of all humanity. Therefore it is easier for men of science or those strongly influenced by science to grow into the international spirit and all the world is now beginning to feel the scientific influence and to live in it." (Ibid, pg.550-551) The growth and expansion of knowledge has broken social and cultural barriers and there is now a more universal appreciation of each other's art, culture and religion that overrides the prejudices and exclusivity of old nationalistic and regional sentiments. Religion could have led the way but being more dependent on outer forms and infrarational roots became a sower of discord than a teacher of humanity (Ibid). Of course, religion has started to acknowledge, though a bit dimly and ineffectively that "spirituality is after all its own chief business and true aim and that it is also the common element and the common bond of all religions".(Ibid)

The path is not smooth because the human mind is still geared to exclusivism in the realm of the idea. That is why in spite of being a harbinger of internationalism, science can come equally to the service of secessionism and discord. What is required is a real psychological modification of the human psyche so that it is geared to the yet unmanifest ideal of a perfect and united human race. If that change takes place, the momentum can pick up at an optimal time and one day move with an irresistible rapidity to "prepare a real and fundamental change in the life of humanity"(Ibid).


Date of Update: 17-Feb-20

- By Dr. Soumitra Basu